Everywhere I have lived, I have found myself part of a family. And sometimes more than one. It is just how I roll. I have the ability to nestle my way into families pretty quickly. But never have I felt like I belong. Maybe this is part of why I have moved around so much. I always just thought it was just because I liked adventure (I think this has a big part to play too!). Never have I stayed around long enough to have to how all of me to anyone, really. Any hint of potential of me screwing up, I have moved on my way. Or withdrawn and waited until I feel good enough to be able to be my best around everyone that I am with. This just isn’t sustainable. And it’s not real either. But it’s all that I knew. And, most importantly, it’s all that I’ve known is safe to do.
Yesterday whilst speaking on the phone with a friend, she was telling me how I was now part of this family she is also a part of. I have been told that before, by other friends or people, but I couldn’t ever comprehend what that meant. I don’t know what it is like to be part of a family that isn’t fucked up and riddled with abuse and/or switched responsibilities. Basically, when you experience severe and consistent developmental trauma, your connection with family kinda gets cut off right there and then. I was on my own from the age of three. Not consciously, but subconsciously.
So, I have never truly belonged. I thought I had but just today I realised I haven’t. There’s the surface belonging, and then there’s proper belonging on every level. Up until now I have belonged but I have belonged with not All Of Me. It’s like I’ve been on the edge of belonging, but only a quarter of me has ever felt like I do. There’s the rest of me that has never ever been able to imagine myself as being loved and part of a group, or a family. And this definitely has come from the lack of trust in showing the whole of yourself to whatever group of people you’re with. Never have I felt it safe to screw up, make mistakes, show my supposedly ‘ugly’ bits and know that I am still part of the group or place or people I was/am with. That’s my stuff. I’m sure I still would have been, but I just never knew it was okay to do that.
So up until now I have always only belonged in a Surface Belonging way. Hence feeling so isolated and alone in it, when actually all my life I have always been surrounded by such beautiful friends. And deep, real, beautiful friends. Not surface friends. This shows that the ability to belong lies within us. Yes, some of the factors are environmental and we need to have the nurturance around us, but a big chunk of this belonging is down to us. And time. I believe this ability to grasp the skill of belonging, comes at the right time and comes with time.
Today I realise I am building up this ability to belong. But it doesn’t just happen naturally. For some, perhaps for those who have experienced belonging from an early age, maybe it does happen naturally. Like, it’s not something they have to consciously think about – their being just knows what it’s doing. But for those who have big unmet needs from childhood, big gaps of loss and grief, and strong experiences of trauma, this experience takes effort. And it also takes a safe environment for this effort to be made, and then met.
Recently I have been worrying about just how many ‘unmet needs’ I have from my childhood, and my adult-life. These unmet needs can screw you over big time, on a deep psychological level, but I truly believe that you can fill these needs, no matter how drastic, massive or life crippling they have been or have felt…you just need to make the effort and to work out how, for you. We are all so different and so it is purely a matter of making it work for you. This is the reassurance I give myself when I am crippled with the grief of the lack of parental support, and the desperate need for it NOW. This is the reassurance that I give myself when I see just how much shit I need to ‘work through’ and process. This is the reassurance that I want to give to others to: that despite whatever crap went down, and whatever ways you were ignored or abused, there are always ways in your adult life that you can fill these gaps and heal these wounds. It just takes time and awareness, and LOVE. Love from yourself, and love from trusted others. But you need the love from yourself in order to really let the love from others in.
Self love, self acceptance and self-forgiveness are definitely the beginning of this belonging work too. But also, in order to be able to belong to others, we need to belong to ourselves. Trauma brings about disconnection: from ourselves and from the world around us. This disconnection that comes from trauma, is the recipe for things like chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, etc. With this disconnection from ourselves, comes self-hatred, self-destructiveness and most of all, just a lack of knowing of who we are. And a lack of knowing that we are safe just as we are.
As I begin to know it is safe to be me, and as I begin to love this Me, I am able to know it is safe to not be perfect. It is safe to let people into your life, and let them stay around long enough for you to show them all your vulnerable, emotional, complicated, sensitive, and bizarre bits. It is safe to be a bit ‘difficult’, to act like a teenager, to need reassurance, to withdraw and run off, only to return the week later and still know you have a place there. Slowly, slowly, I am noticing that I am doing this and it is still okay. I have often been told that to have relationships in your adult life, heal those that were abusive and destructive in your childhood.
Speaking with my friend, I realised that I for the first time in my life actually can truly imagine myself as part of this family. That’s the difference – in all the other times in my life, I have belonged but I have NEVER felt it in myself, or imagined myself as though I am part of it. I have always felt separate. But now, I think I really know this family is there for me, just like families are supposed to be. Sure it is not in the traditional family sense, but fuck traditions. I’ve had to let go of that wish a long time ago of the desire for things to just be fucking normal. This for me is absolutely huge. To be able to feel as though I belong is as though I have just won the lotto in love. It feels weird, it feels bizarre and something I definitely do not trust yet, but just the fact that I think I can feel it, shows I am on the road to truly knowing it.
We can all get our unmet needs met, however big and impossible they feel, it just might look a little different to what we dream of in our heads. But, it can still hold just as much power, and just as much love, and just as much healing.